The following weekend, there was a knock at the door, and there was Lev with a large bottle of gin in his hand. My wife was halfway through preparing dinner and she was not very amused by this unannounced visit. Nevertheless, we felt obliged to ask him in and drink his gin; (well, some of it, ) together with some of the Balsam. We played records and talked about life in our respective countries. He told us that at one time he had been a rocket engineer. He was obviously very proud of his country, so I gave him a hard time about Czechoslovakia 1968, and the reported treatment of Russian Jews. He took it quite well, and very nearly apologised for the Czech incident.
I was rather surprised when he said he was planning to buy a $600 stereo system, which seemed somewhat decadent, as well as costly, considering his salary.
When he left that night, I accompanied Lev to the bus stop, and he told me how pleased he was to have my acquaintanceship. He hoped we could help each other in our work. I said "Sure", rather doubtfully, as I wasn't particularly interested in the work he had talked about and I didn't feel needed his help in mine.
There was a knock on the door, the following Saturday night, and we were sure that it couldn't be Lev again -but it. was! This time he brought a bottle of vodka. My wife was not at all amused. She didn't feel like drinking, so she just tried one shot of the vodka to be polite, but Lev insisted that he and I should finish off the whole bottle, as is the custom at his home. I regret to say that I don't remember much about that evening. I believe he mentioned a desire to visit Britain and told me that he could arrange for me to visit Moscow. (I wonder if that offer is still open.) My wife tells me that, towards the end of the evening, I was trying to teach him phrases from Monty Python's fraudulent English phrase book for foreigners, such as "Take off your panties, Sir William, I cannot wait for lunchtime" for “I want a pack of cigarettes”.
When the bottle was empty, I again accompanied Lev to the bus stop. He seemed quite sober, but when I went back in to the apartment, I was, to put it delicately, unwell. I shall not be drinking vodka in such quantities again.
All this time, I wasn’t having much contact with Lev in the lab, mainly because he was hardly ever there. He would arrive at about 10 am, go for coffee at 10.30, and around noon he would say that he was going over to the Canadian Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, (what most people would call "the Science Library") -a facility which is not available to Soviet Embassy staff, without special permission, by the way. He would not return.